Health, the Highlands and Tony Benn’s dad

The History Company

1913 was anything but a quiet halcyon year, a point well illustrated in Michael Portillo’s recent Radio Four series

Two important Scottish centenaries also came out of it. On August 15, royal assent was given to bill setting up the Highlands and Islands Medical Service (HIMS) the unique social experiment in state funded comprehensive health care well before the NHS.

Its birth was remarkable for the speed of delivery.  Sir John Dewar’s committee spent months taking evidence around Scotland but managed to write its final report in just one day, meeting at the North British (now the Balmoral) Hotel in Edinburgh.

The Treasury signed off its annual £42,000 grant within weeks – such were the power of Dewar’s arguments and the broad political support behind it.

Surprisingly, perhaps, there were links aplenty then between health, philanthropy and the demon drink.  As well as the Dewar family’s whisky operation (in which…

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